How to Get Unstuck

by Brad Isaac on July 23, 2009

get unstuck

Have you ever felt stuck?   The other day I got a question on Twitter from a friend who feels stuck with her project. She said “I’ll get one task done and then feel like I can’t go any further. How can I get unstuck?”

Getting stuck can feel like putting forth all your energy to go backwards. It’s stressful because I feel like I should be doing something, but I don’t know what to do. Why? Cause I’m stuck!

Some of my favorite ways to get unstuck  -

  1. Sit still - Believe it or not, a great way to get unstuck is to sit still. I’ve written more in depth abou this before. But here’s the simple rule: Sit still in a quiet place for 1 hour. No phone. No TV. No Radio. Relax and the hurdles will desolve and your path will clear.
  2. Take a long walk alone - An hour or more walk on your own without the iPhone, Twitter or music playing is the type of solitude that can clear the head and give you direction much like the method above.
  3. Measure how much you care - Jonathan Mead writes an excellent way to get unstuck is to measure your care quotient . Do you care? If the answer is really No, then decide what you do care about and do that.
  4. Ask a friend - I find talking it out with a friend who knows what I am trying to do can help me get unstuck. But there’s two keys to make this work.
    • The friend has to be honest.
    • I can’t be reactive or defensive about what they say
    • I need to be specific with what I’m experiencing and the end goal – i.e. getting unstuck.

    I’ve found if you just want to complain, that can be fun for awhile. But it won’t help you get unstuck. Being specific by saying “Hey, I’m feeling stuck in my marriage, job or business because ___________________.” Will provide a launching ground for your friend to give you feedback.

    Complaints usually cause friends to come to your defense. Complaints like “I can’t get anything done with her nagging me.” is more likely to lead to  “You don’t deserve that.”  than a ground-breaking unstickable suggestion.

    So although bitching is fun, it won’t get you unstuck.

  5. Break it down to the ridiculous - Sometimes when I get stuck it’s due to me not seeing steps needing to be done. I might be looking at the mountain instead of seeing the 5lb. stones that need to be moved. Taking action on a mountain is uncomfortable. It’s scary. But moving a few 5lb. stones is easy. Taking the time to face what truly needs to be done, in the most simplest of terms will unstick many of the most sticky situations.

    So I’d challenge you to take your big problem. Write it down no matter what it is. If it’s “I am stuck in my career and I hate every day of my life” might be hard to admit but it’s a start. But if you do feel it, admit it on paper WITH the intention of changing it. Remember we aren’t going to wallow in it. Complaining is fun, but it’s not as effective as a plan. So start with an honest assessment of where you are now and then clarify it with where you want to be.

    Then take the time – maybe an hour – maybe 3 hours to break down what it will take to change that situation.  It really doesn’t matter how long it takes because when you’re stuck you’re wasting countless hours worrying.

That’s what I think, but what do you think?  Do you have any cool ways to get unstuck?  I know you do.  Share them in the comments below.  :)

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{ 10 comments }

Kenton July 24, 2009 at 2:40 pm

My favorite: go to sleep, and let the unconscious brain work on the problem. When you wake up: presto! You’re well rested and you’ve solved your problem.
.-= Kenton´s last blog ..Why there should be more singing in school =-.

Annie Cook July 25, 2009 at 11:03 am

I dealt it by focusing one task, finishing it and then move on to the next, the day after. It worked like you’ve discussed to “carry the 5lbs brick than to move the mountain”. Whatever that’s left to be done is still that 5lbs brick piled up into a mountain, and moving a brick successfully is better than staring at a mountain and feeling overwhelmed by it.

I definitely agree with no. 3: how much do you really care? Priorities can be muddled by us failing to notice the difference between importance and urgency. When we are stuck, everything seems important but they do not usually require our urgent attention.

No. 4: that is so profound. “not to be reactive or defensive”. You’ve explained it very well.

I relate problems like this to spring cleaning a messy room, especially a playroom. How do you begin when you can barely see the floor, mattress or table? It is a big mess. I am so well prepared to domestic chores, no problem if it is mountain of work to be done.

So with mental strength and lots of patience, getting unstuck is not an unreachable destination. Especially so when there are friends like you who listens and understands the meaning of word good advice.
.-= Annie Cook´s last blog ..Advice And Tips On Advice And Tips =-.

Yonathan Zarkovian July 25, 2009 at 8:22 pm

I just move to doing something else, and then get back to the thing at which I was stuck. I don’t recall anytime it got me unstuck nor left me stuck, to be honest. I don’t recall what happened when I got back to it.

Kaizan July 26, 2009 at 12:08 pm

Hi Brad,

Great advice! I’m going to try out point #1

I think the worst thing people do, is deny that they are even stuck. They just keep plodding away, achieving nothing.

Admitting that you are actually stuck is a very important step.
.-= Kaizan´s last blog ..More Self-Development Books on Kaizan – July 2009 =-.

Dave Girgenti August 1, 2009 at 2:06 am

Excellent posts ! I quite appreciate all of you for sharing such wonderful views. Thanks everyone.
.-= Everything Counts´s last blog ..Keep Score! =-.

Danganan August 3, 2009 at 4:22 am

me? it always happens to me. I always get stuck on my projects.
and like you mentioned, I always do the first and the second part..
in order for me to get unstuck.. i take a seat for a while and if that doesn’t work, I’ll have a walk for at least an hour to empty my mind and in order for me to think or the possible things that i have to do whenever i am stuck..

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Nik Halik August 10, 2009 at 3:40 pm

It is also important to take a step back and not get frustrated.

Start your day with the mindset that it will be a good day. Mindset has a lot to do with how you live your life.

Charlie August 11, 2009 at 9:42 pm

Surrender. Sometimes it’s best to just say, “I give up. Go ahead and hit me with everything you got.” Takes the heat off and lets you re-evaluate.

I like your blog. Surfed in looking for information about hackers stealing AdSense revenue. I’m dealing with them, too, as are a lot of people. I won’t surrender to them, though!

space hulk August 18, 2009 at 6:13 am

Taking a break is definitely a good idea as when you approach the problem again you may just spot a different way of approaching it.

Joe Hefferon October 24, 2009 at 11:38 am

No one feels stuck like a writer. I felt that way more than I can remember when writing my first novel. I read a piece of advice from another writer whose name, unfortunately, escapes me at the moment. He claimed there is a myth to writers block. The trick to avoiding this impass is to have several projects going at once. If you get “blocked” on one, simply change gears and work on another. When you grow a little stale on the second project, move back to the first. Ultimately you will be more productive.

I have put this into practice and have discovered that, not only am I more productive, but I have come to feel as though writer’s block is a symptom of procrastination or laziness. Get up and get moving on something else. Writer’s block is an appeal for self-pity

Joe Hefferon
“The Sixth Session” a novel

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